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The true story behind Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla Presley movie

The Lost in Translation filmmaker tells the story of the woman behind the King

Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny in a scene from Priscilla
Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny star in Priscilla. (A24)

While cinemas are still reeling from Baz Luhrmann’s hit 2022 biopic Elvis, Marie Antionette filmmaker Sofia Coppola will soon present the King's mythology from a brand new angle in Priscilla.

Inspired by Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir Elvis and Me, Coppola’s movie will delve deep into the life of Presley’s former wife and her relationship with the king of rock’n’roll — from their first meeting when she was just 14 years old to their marriage and eventual divorce in 1973.

With music biopics currently on trend in the wake of films like Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman and Luhrmann’s Austin Butler-fronted feature, all eyes are on Coppola to see how she might switch up the formula.

Read more: The 10 best music biopics

Read on for all the key details we have about Priscilla so far, including its release date, plot, cast and more.

Priscilla will be released in UK cinemas on 1 January, 2024.

It premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Monday, 4 September and was shown at the BFI London Film Festival on Monday, 9 October.

Is Priscilla based on a true story?

Cailee Spaeny in a limo in a scene from Priscilla
The film takes its cues from the 1985 memoir Elvis and Me. (A24)

Written and directed by Coppola, Priscilla takes its cues from the 1985 memoir Elvis and Me which Presley’s former wife wrote to chronicle her relationship with the music icon.

The film depicts Priscilla throughout a variety of ages and span her entire relationship with Elvis, troubles and all.

“I've had her memoir for years and remember reading it a long time ago,” Coppola told Vogue before starting work on the project. “A friend of mine was talking about her recently, and we got around to discussing the book. I read it again and was really moved by her story.

“I was just so interested in Priscilla's story and her perspective on what it all felt like to grow up as a teenager in Graceland. She was going through all the stages of young womanhood in such an amplified world—kinda similar to Marie Antoinette.”

Elvis Presley with his wife Priscilla and father Vernon
Elvis Presley with his wife Priscilla and father Vernon. (Alamy/Oscar Abolafia/Everett Collection)

The film’s teaser trailer and poster clue us in on the vibe that Coppola hopes to pursue with her movie, suggesting that Elvis will be a supporting player in Priscilla’s story as she goes from an unknown youth to hitting the big time with her famous spouse.

It’s a story that has later been romanticised through the lens of pop culture thanks, in part, to the mammoth nature of Elvis’ ongoing mythology.

However, whether or not Coppola chooses to highlight the various issues that were clearly present in the couple’s relationship (the pair’s romance starting when Priscilla was only just a teenager, for starters), remains to be seen but was heavily hinted at during a chat with The Hollywood Reporter.

“I just got who she was and I felt that she could get me," said executive producer Priscilla of Coppola, highlighting her own career growing up as the daughter of famed director Francis Ford Coppola. “I thought, we have different stories, but she could understand this better than any writer because she kind of lived it in her own way.”

Lisa Marie Presley at the 46th CMA Awards
Lisa Marie Presley passed away following cardiac arrest in January 2023. (Invision/AP, File)

Before Priscilla has had a chance to go on general release, a new controversy surrounding its depiction of Elvis has emerged, one with roots that lead directly back to the Presley family.

According to a new report published by Variety, shortly before her death in January 2023, Elvis’s late daughter Lisa Marie Presley shared her anger at the way Coppola had planned to portray her father in Priscilla, calling the script “shockingly vengeful and contemptuous.”

As detailed in two notes sent to the director before production on Priscilla had begun, Lisa Marie also explained the negative impact this portrayal would have on her family who were already grieving the death of her son Benjamin Keough who died in 2020.

Lisa Marie also expressed concern that her mother — who has since praised Coppola’s movie — did not fully appreciate the impact this depiction would have on Elvis’s lasting legacy.

“My father only comes across as a predator and manipulative. As his daughter, I don’t read this and see any of my father in this character. I don’t read this and see my mother’s perspective of my father. I read this and see your shockingly vengeful and contemptuous perspective and I don’t understand why?” explained Lisa Marie in one note.

Lisa Marie Presley and Priscilla Presley at TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
Lisa Marie Presley and Priscilla Presley at TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. (Getty)

“I will be forced to be in a position where I will have to openly say how I feel about the film and go against you, my mother and this film publicly.”

She continued in another letter, both of which were sent in September 2022: “I am worried that my mother isn’t seeing the nuance here or realizing the way in which Elvis will be perceived when this movie comes out.

“I feel protective over my mother who has spent her whole life elevating my father’s legacy. I am worried she doesn’t understand the intentions behind this film or the outcome it will have.”

Lisa Marie compared the experience to Coppola’s own personal life to highlight the issues at hand. As the daughter of The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, Lisa Marie asked the filmmaker: “Why are you coming for my Dad and my family?” before hitting home the litany of difficult situations she and her loved ones have had to endure in recent years.

Sofia Coppola on the red carpet
Sofia Coppola shared her response to Lisa Marie Presley’s issues with her script. (Getty)

“I had to explain that we are going to have to endure another hit in our lives. That there is going to be a movie about her grandfather that is going to try to make him look really, really bad but it’s not true. I had to explain that her beloved grandmother is supporting it. These two little girls have been through so much in the past 7 years, enduring my divorce and horrific custody battle and then losing their brother. We’ve all been drowning,”

Responding to these letters, representatives for Coppola simply shared the response that the director gave to Lisa-Marie at the time she first received her letters.

It read: “I hope that when you see the final film you will feel differently, and understand I’m taking great care in honoring your mother, while also presenting your father with sensitivity and complexity.”

Cailee Spaeny on the red carpet
Cailee Spaeny plays Priscilla through all stages of her relationship with Elvis. (AP)

Mare of Easttown’s Cailee Spaeny takes centre stage as Priscilla, playing the role through all stages of her relationship with Elvis, from a young teenager to a young adult. Meanwhile, Euphoria star Jacob Elordi takes on Elvis, a role that, for many, will still be heavily associated with Luhrmann’s lead Butler.

When it came to casting her actors, Coppola was full of praise for Spaeny even before filming began: "The character goes from the age of 15 to 27 over the course of the film, so she had to be able to act and age across a big span of time,” she says.

“It was really important for me to have the same actress playing Priscilla at those different stages of her life, and I think Cailee can pull it off. She's such a strong actress, and she also looks very young.”

Meanwhile, she spoke just as highly of Elordi: "I thought nobody was gonna look quite like Elvis, but Jacob has that same type of magnetism. He's so charismatic, and girls go crazy around him, so I knew he could pull off playing this type of romantic icon.”

Jacob Elordi smiling at an event
Euphoria star Jacob Elordi plays music icon Elvis. (Getty for Tiffany & Co.)

Elsewhere, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll plays Alan "Hog Ears" Fortas, a member of Elvis’ inner circle, the self-titled ‘Memphis Mafia,’ with Luke Humphrey playing Terry West, one of Priscilla’s future love interests who spiked the King’s jealousy.

Emily Mitchell and Raine Monroe Boland plays Priscilla’s late daughter Lisa Marie Presley, presumably at two different ages, with Jorja Cadence as Elvis's cousin Patsy Presley and Dagmara Domińczyk as Ann Priscilla's mother Beaulieu.

Coppola’s movie does not feature any music from the Elvis estate. Instead, much of the film’s music is provided by Coppola’s husband Thomas Mars and his band Phoenix.

Releasing an Elvis movie so soon after Baz Luhrmann’s award-winning biopic is a bold move but it’s one that appears to have paid off for Sofia Coppola, as she moves the King aside to tell the story of the woman in his shadow.

The Telegraph calls the movie “woozily beautiful,” telling the story of a woman who was forced to live her life as “a sort of living ornament.”These themes were reiterated in The Independent’s write-up, which said “Coppola makes some trenchant points about the way Priscilla is controlled by the men in her life. She is living in a gilded cage.”

Meanwhile, IndieWire called it an antidote to Lurhmann’s more lavish and loud movie, while The Guardian labelling it simultaneously “absorbing” and “intimate.”

Read more below:

The Telegraph: Sofia Coppola shunts Elvis to the shadows, to beautiful effect (3-min read)

The Independent: Sofia Coppola drama will be very uncomfortable viewing for Elvis fans (4-min read)

IndieWire: Sofia Coppola’s Inert but Sensitive Biopic Offers a Much-Needed Antidote to ‘Elvis’ (11-min read)

The Guardian: Sofia Coppola paints an absorbing, intimate portrait of Elvis’s wife (3-min read)

“I want a life of my own...” asks Priscilla in the latest trailer for Coppola’s new movie. Unlike the sweet teaser released a few weeks back, this slightly longer look at the movie offers up the darker side of a well-publicised story.

Plucked from obscurity, we watch as young Priscilla is plunged into the world of Elvis Presley. However, as their relationship starts to intensify, so does a lingering feeling of control.

Watch the trailer below:

A teaser trailer for Priscilla was released in July and provided our first look at the stylised and intimate story that Coppola has in store.

Through the soft lens of cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd, we watch Priscilla rise from a small-town child to the wife of the biggest rock star on the planet. The teaser is set to a slick soundtrack of more modern hits, something that has become a calling card for Coppola’s work.

Watch it after the jump.

Priscilla will be released in UK cinemas on 1 January, 2024